Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2018 - 56
Above: The Cumberland Gap Trail has been restored to its native, 18th-century appearance.
Center: This view of the Town of Cumberland Gap is from the Pinnacle Overlook.
Far right: Gap residents Ashley White, Brandy Sweat and dog Boone gather on the porch.
as Walker described the area in his
detailed journal as he explored an
800,000-acre land grant for the Loyal Land Company in April of 1750:
We went four miles to large
Creek,...and from thence Six miles
to Cave gap the land being Levil. On
the North side of the gap, is a large
Spring, which falls very fast....On the
South side is a plain Indian Road....
This Gap may be seen at a considerable distance, and there is no other,
that I know of, except one about two
miles to the North of it, which does
not appear to be so low as the other.
The Mountain on the North Side of
the Gap is very steep and Rocky, but
on the South side it is not so.
Daunted by the rough terrain
and hardships of southeastern
Kentucky, Walker and his group returned to Virginia. But his description of the land, springs, and minerals lying beyond the Gap tempted
landseekers rich and poor.
Which is where Daniel Boone and the
Wilderness Road come into the
Known as "the white man considered to have the most knowledge
of the existing trails," Boone was
hired by North Carolina Judge Richard Henderson and his land speculation Transylvania Company to
build a viable passage through the
Cumberland Gap-The Wilderness
Road. Their goal: to colonize the
rich Kentucky River land and make
Kentucky the 14th British Colony.
To counter hostility from the
Cherokee Nation, the Transylvania
Company purchased 20 million
acres-half of present-day Kentucky-for a mere 10,000 pounds of
goods (a treaty that was later nullified by colonial Virginia's governor).
Boone and 35 axmen cut a 208mile trail from Fort Chiswell, Virginia through the Cumberland Gap
into Kentucky. Between 1780 and
1810 nearly 300,000 settlers-including Abraham Lincoln's father
and grandparents-crossed the Gap
and moved into America's interior. The Gateway to the West had
It was called Massacre Mountain,
the 3.2-mile stretch of U.S. 25E that
traveled through the Gap from 1926
to 1996. At least five people a year
died driving it. In a partnership between the National Park Service and
the Federal Highway Administration, work began on the $280-million tunnel that would carry 18,000
cars a day beneath Cumberland
Mountain rather than over it.
On the day the tunnel opened
in October 1996, the overland Gap
Road it replaced was closed, and the
National Park service began restoring this section of the Wilderness
Road to its late-18th-century appearance. Using descriptions from